Stevia is a sweetener and sugar substitute extracted from the leaves of the plant species Stevia rebaudiana. The leaves have been used traditionally for hundreds of years in both Brazil and Paraguay to sweeten local teas and medicines, and as a “sweet treat”. Due to its unique characteristics of zero glycemic index and zero calories, it is helpful in controlling sugar levels, blood pressure.
Stevia plant is called as “Stevia sanyantra”, “meethi patti” in Hindi. Fresh raw stevia leaves contain vitamins A (retinol) and C (ascorbic acid), minerals such as zinc, magnesium, and iron, and a bioflavonoid called rutin, which is a powerful antioxidant found in other popular herbs and fruits, such as tea plant, apples, and figs. Add fresh stevia leaves to beverages or foods as a sweet, edible garnish. Although, the fresh leaves are less sweet than dried leaves, they’re still much sweeter than sugar.
Since the refinement process in Stevia extract strips away antioxidants and some of the plant’s healthful properties, it is best to grow your own stevia plants at home and us the whole leaf as a sweetener.
- Choose a 1-year-old plants grown from seeds or cuttings. Start sowing the seeds in a tray indoors early in the spring. Use 100% organic potting mix and plant the seeds to a depth of ½ inch. Due to low germination rate of the seeds you should plant three times the usual number of seeds.
- Keep the soil moist. This plant grows better in neutral soil, with an ideal pH of 6.7 – 7.2.
- Choose a location in the garden that receives full sun. Prepare the soil with 50% organic compost and 50% peat moss.
- Stevia prefers warm weather. Transplant the seedlings outdoors several weeks after the rains.
- Set the plants two feet apart (60 cm) apart from each other.
- Frequent light watering is recommended and do not allow your stevia plants to dry out. Adding a layer of compost or your favorite mulch around each stevia plant will help keep the shallow feeder roots from drying out. Stevia plants respond well to fertilizers with lower nitrogen content than the fertilizer’s phosphoric acid or potash content. Most organic fertilizers would work well, since they release nitrogen slowly.
- The plants will grow 16 – 24 inch tall depending upon the temperature. Trim the plants when they reach a height of eight inches tall and again at twelve inches to maximize leaf production.
- Three to five plants will grow a year’s supply of leaves, which can be plucked and dried.
Raised beds are ideal for stevia since they allow excellent drainage. To increase your supply of stevia plants you can use the stem tips to create new starts by rooting them in trays with moist potting mix. Be sure to choose an accessible spot, because you will need to gather stems often. In places where summers are extremely hot, stevia benefits from slight afternoon shade elsewhere, grow stevia in full sun.
Stevia at your balcony:
Just because you live within the confines of an apartment doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the benefits of stevia farming. This versatile plant can be grown either in pots on your balcony or any sunny spot, or else in a hydroponic unit.
Stevia plants also do quite well in “container gardens.” A 10″ to 12″ diameter container filled with a lightweight growing mix is an ideal size for each plant. A little mulch on the top will help retain the moisture in the shallow root zone. A properly fertilized hydroponic unit or container garden can provide you with as much stevia as an outdoor garden, if not more.
Harvesting Stevia Leaves:
Harvest your stevia plant by cutting off the branches at the base of the plant. Wash the branches/leaves in clean filter water. Pick leaves off stevia plant, discard the stems, and dry the leaves for 12 hours in the sun. Once your leaves are dry, grind them in a mixer grinder to make pure stevia. You can also make your own liquid stevia extract by adding a cup of warm water to 1/4 cup of fresh, finely-crushed stevia leaves. This mixture should set for 24 hours and then be refrigerated.
Usage of Stevia leaves:
Use the fresh leaves during the growing season to sweeten tea. The sweetness in the leaves is approximately one-fourth as concentrated as the white, powdered stevia sold at the store. When sweetening with powdered leaves, use about 1/8 teaspoon of dried stevia to equal the sweetness of 1 teaspoon of sugar.
Buy Stevia plant at a reasonable price at our D’Organica Garden Shoppee along with the other accessories like organic potting mix,containers,natural fertilisers etc. You can place orders and check on the availability of the products by submitting your requirements in the ‘Contact Us‘ form.